New Palanca Hall of Famer Nicolas Pichay

Compelling literary works, for some artists, are produced out of vivid imagination, while others are inspired by merely observing the everyday rustics. But for Nicolas Pichay, the latest Hall of Fame awardee in the prestigious Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, compelling and effective literary pieces are best derived from one’s heart and experiences.

Pichay’s entry “Tres Ataques de Corazon” or “The Angina Monologues,” which delivers a poignant storytelling of three people suffering various problems of the heart, bagged the top prize in the 2007 Full-length play category in Filipino of the prestigious Palanca literary tilt.

The winning play starts with the character of Che Un, an overweight chef, who struggles with the unfamiliar territory of falling in love with his assistant cook. The second part tells of Lawrence Cruz, a self-confessed homosexual who juggles his time between two relationships. The last part of the Filipino play delves on the life of a retired public school teacher hell bent in entering American soil to rendezvous with his bed-ridden 62-year old Filipina fiancé.

The award is Pichay’s fifth top prize in the Palanca Awards, which merited him a place in the Hall of Fame alongside renowned literary figures. The other Hall of Fame awardees are:

  • Rodolfo R. Lana, Jr. (2006)
  • Manuel R. Buising (2005)
  • Luis P. Gatmaitan (2005)
  • Isagani R. Cruz (2004)
  • Reynaldo A. Duque (2003)
  • Leoncio P. Deriada (2001)
  • Alfred A. Yuson (2001)
  • Roberto T. Añonuevo (2000)
  • Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr. (2000)
  • Edgardo B. Maranan (2000)
  • Elsa M. Coscolluella (1999)
  • Ma. Luisa A. Igloria (1996)
  • Cirilo F. Bautista (1995)
  • Gregorio C. Brillantes (1995)
  • Ruth Elynia Mabanglo (1995)
  • Buenaventura S. Medina, Jr. (1995)
  • Jesus T. Peralta (1995)
  • Rolando S. Tinio (1995)
  • Rene O. Villanueva (1995)

While it obviously took the award-winning playwright great effort to complete the literary piece, Pichay needed not look far to find the inspiration to start the piece in the first place.

His latest literary masterpiece mirrors his own plight as Pichay himself had to conquer his own problems of the heart. He underwent triple bypass surgery in 2005 and even had to battle cancer the following year. Although he conceived of the monologues long before he was diagnosed of heart problems, the opportunity to translate his own ordeal into literature was hard to miss.

“Everybody was asking what happened to you, what happened to you? So I kept on repeating it. In the process of repeating it, I realized it could be a good monologue piece,” Pichay stressed.

But more than the usual ailments of the heart, one problem that is surely difficult to ignore, Pichay said, is the changing of hearts and preferences of Filipinos, away from literature.

Pichay observes that most Filipinos today are more concerned about the advancing forms of communications and they are lacking attachment to history.

“There is a confluence of elements that seem to deprive young people or even old people of what I call a sense of originality. They dress up like Americans. They eat like Americans. They don’t read,” Pichay stressed.

Pichay is encouraging Filipinos to trace back the roots of Philippine literature and find inspiration in them.

As for his recent triumph in the field of literature, Pichay admits that bagging the top prize in the full-length play in Filipino category of the Palanca Awards is always a good feeling.

“If you win a Palanca, it means you are somebody to be reckoned with,” Pichay said admitting however that there is no cut out pattern for winning a Palanca. Instead, one has to listen to his own voice and then carefully weave his ideas into a carefully executed work of art.

“Storytelling is about how to tell your story and the discovery of your own voice. Better writing is writing that has a theory behind it. And the theory has to be wrapped in a voice,” Pichay adds.